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Government says EU accords will improve social insurance

The government says Swiss people working in European Union member states, and EU citizens working in Switzerland will benefit from better social insurance cover, if the bilateral accords with the EU are approved on May 21.

The government says Swiss people working in European Union member states, and EU citizens working in Switzerland will benefit from better social insurance cover, if the bilateral accords with the EU are approved on May 21. The measure would cost the Swiss government tens of millions of francs.

Officials in Berne said there would be better health and social insurance cover for workers and tourists, if the accords were approved. They added one of the most significant improvements would be in health insurance. A Swiss person travelling in the EU will be assured full coverage by their insurance company in Switzerland if they fall ill or are involved in an accident abroad. Old age pensioners and those receiving invalidity insurance would also benefit.

Swiss voters go the polls on May 21 to vote on seven dossiers, which make up the bilateral accords. They are designed to remove any possible trade discrimination between Switzerland and the rest of Europe.

Part of the most controversial dossier - the free movement of people - is a measure to co-ordinate national rules on social insurance.

The Federal Social Insurance office in Berne has been trying to allay fears of a possible misuse of health, unemployment and old age insurance.

Switzerland, which has a 20 per cent foreign population, does not expect any major influx of immigrants from Europe if the accords are accepted.

To become euro-compatible, Swiss sickness insurance laws have had to be modified slightly.

In future the tens of thousands of French frontier workers employed in Switzerland will pay much more for sickness insurance than German frontier workers. This is because Germany obtained special conditions from the Swiss government, which the French have not requested.

Changes to health insurance laws will cost Switzerland an estimated SFr70-100 million annually. The bilaterals will widen the scope of the Swiss unemployment scheme, and the government expects that the increase in the number of people eligible for unemployment payments could cost the country up to SFr400 million annually.

The government admits the bilaterals will result in additional social costs, and that the general cost of closer ties with Europe could be as high as SFr1 billion annually. Opponents have suggested much higher figures, but the government argues that increased social costs will be offset by greater trade prospects for the Swiss economy.

swissinfo with agencies



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